The Tesla Roadster and the road to fuel freedom

On Monday, I’ll be riding in Morgan Hill’s annual Fourth of July
parade. The car that I really, really wanted to roll down the
parade route in is the Tesla Roadster
– a super cool, electric vehicle (EV) designed in our own
Silicon Valley region. I considered my choice a personal salute to
my favorite Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin.
On Monday, I’ll be riding in Morgan Hill’s annual Fourth of July parade. The car that I really, really wanted to roll down the parade route in is the Tesla Roadster – a super cool, electric vehicle (EV) designed in our own Silicon Valley region. I considered my choice a personal salute to my favorite Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin. That revolutionary leader knew a thing or two about the power of electricity and the quest for freedom – which is what the Tesla Roadster is all about.

Unfortunately, the nice folks at Tesla Motors weren’t able to provide a demo Roadster for my little jaunt in Monday’s Independence Day parade. They tried, but it seems the car is hugely popular. I kind of hinted to them that it would be a terrific marketing opportunity for Tesla, as the Roadster would be viewed by the more than 40,000 spectators expected to line the parade route. But more than that, my own personal reason for riding in the Roadster was the symbolic value this EV would present in a parade devoted to the celebration of our nation’s values.

Since the days of Henry Ford and his “Tin Lizzie,” cars have served as an emblem for the spirit of freedom enlightened in the American character. They serve as a mechanical metaphor for our national right of getting behind the wheel, revving up the engine and enjoying the journey down our nation’s highways heading wherever our hearts might lead us.

But that liberty comes with an unfortunate reality. Our nation’s high dependence on petroleum energy to run our combustion engines now makes us face the potential of a massive collapse of our transportation infrastructure and modern civilization when that liquid fuel source peaks in production and begins its inevitable decline. Our freedoms are jeopardized by our addiction to oil. And as our nation’s reliance on foreign oil grows increasingly considerable in the coming decades, our economy will be increasingly impacted by the social and political strife in other countries we use as our petroleum providers.

Freedom is the ongoing theme of our great American story. And throughout that story, the mission to expand our freedoms has never been an easy enterprise. The first colonists faced enormous physical hardships when they came to North America looking for economic and religious freedom. The men and women who fought for the spirit of 1776, which we will celebrate Monday, held in their hearts a deep desire to win political freedom from the tyranny of a monarchical government. Our nation’s Civil War, a war where more than 600,000 Americans died, ultimately gained the prize of freedom for millions of Americans held captive by the chains of slavery. The various Civil Rights movements in the 20th century served as a struggle to gain economic and social freedom for millions of our citizens shackled by bigotry and racial prejudice.

Now here in the 21st century, we Americans have an opportunity to win for ourselves a new kind of freedom, the autonomy from the tyranny of fossil fuels. The newly emerging “energy freedom” endeavor is a brand-new chapter in our American story. And much like all our other national struggles to expand our rights and liberties, it faces aggressive resistance from those folks who fail to see the economic and social benefits we’ll gain from winning our fuel freedom.

This resistance is unavoidable. It’s part of our human nature to react against change, even change that benefits us with greater economic and social opportunities. Fortunately, as we saw with the American Revolution, as well as the Civil War and Civil Rights, those people who battle against the expansion of human freedom must eventually find themselves on the losing end of liberty’s labors.

The United States is now evolving its society and its economy as our nation’s newly emerging energy freedom movement starts to gain momentum. We’re seeing more and more hybrid cars on our nation’s roads, and these vehicles serve as the transition technology we need to cross the bridge from old-fashioned combustion engine cars to the new-fangled EVs. We can do even more to fight for our energy freedom – including upgrading our derelict national electric grid and pushing solar and wind power innovations to sustain the millions of EVs that will roll down America’s roads and highways two decades hence.

Tesla’s Roadster, as cool a car as it is now, will no doubt one day be seen as a pioneer vehicle, as antiquated in its technological features as the Model T is now for us. But it represents the American spirit of innovation that leads to freedom. No doubt, a Founding Father from Philadelphia named Franklin would give a wink and a nod of approval if the Tesla might have rolled in Morgan Hill’s Independence Day parade.

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